Hamilton's essay Poesis Behind Bars




Richard Hamilton








Alabama Inmate Notes

For Moses





The job is taxing clanking on the bars we all agree we need some new work boots and yet and more over we need a new outlook Sir it is one hundred degrees in here and the air is obscene as well as our knees hurt where our heavenly body speaks to us and nothing Sir to scratch our dreams on the wall with and there Sir is another rape another fucking suicide goes underreported and guards scream bust your head if you buck and some of us live Sir in San Francisco where the smells are all kind brown and blue musk that in our dreams fuses railroad a chain of events Sir that lead here and suppose us dead and deserving we all agree we have families we hurt in real life we step out of line we talk shit eat watermelon on Independence Day as well as find our handcuffs birdcalls women or booze until the sun goes down our feet bar after bar Sir as the clanking renews itself as we take lint from the laundry room to cot with us we all agree as we ink we blot out we meld we murder we assemble for chow with each clanking bar our heavenly body speaks of.













Bench press now to find the right words like if I can't have champagne, red wine is
















Here by green—Green, how I love you, green. Green wind. Green branches—inside the poem—the flesh on their hands was green—he  means wet—she dreams by her railing—as in virginal—

green hair, green flesh—













Drive that plate—steady son. Drive that  plate—steady son. Plates stack time–shift hum drum line. Driver hit his—smashed his thumb. Driver hit his—smashed his thumb. Boy, it's numb. Been that way all day. Tote them ties—don't drop a one. Tote them ties—don't drop a one. Won't be long yet, Boss.

We almost done.[2]













We don't have access to the internet.













I'm from Van Dyke's home city. My family's blue-collar.













In the dream, my body pinned to your  context can neither role play nor perform the stunt. Of dying, and needing a new body, I pummel for what's left of an organic apple sitting on the black round table deliberating over fish or chicken tonight. Over whether to write a bad check for some eggs and a brownie. Either way, the dinner is foiled thinking about you. On the master copy of my body and whose right it is to take: Letter #1: Be honest. Letter #2: I'll never grow fond of this place. Letter #3: Hardly much could hurt me here.













Keep sex and friable body separate, but equal. Next time you visit the weight pile, say that, and get your head cracked.













All those loops and repetitions come straight out a child's mouth.













Laugh. Everyday. Dark. Pride. Saddens. Smile. Believe. Shine. Laugh. Past. Joy. Dance. Blinded. Clown.

Look. Past. Foolishness. Laugh.[3]













I write about the sea the sod when snicker wags a tail at me and chases anything that moves among the monkey grass and tea when good old Snicker loses sight the sun the buzzing of a bee become the tail old Snicker rides until the land becomes the sea a buzzing brackish little sea old Snicker jumps from tree to tree and happy wags along the grass and fast he trails the buzz the bee just as a sailor would the sea he catches hold and nabs the bee but under some great mystery zips out from under Snicker's paw and whirs about his angry maw while squinting sniffing mowing grass til buzz and bee are on his tail and stings poor Snicker

on the ass.[4]















I am lonely, starving for emotional intimacy, femininity, affection. Just then a ready-made hand shoves a metal plate through the dark in my cell. The sound is of man with a black bag covering his face being led down the hallway to chamber music. Doves fluttering polish the iron chair. In the dream, you are dressing my calf in lamb's ear, lighting tea candles, my hand to the psalm.  Throw me a rope. Quick before water and book. I've had many courses in critique and lie down in my feather bed. My head near the seams of pigskin thread, taut. It's a black psalm, a psalm for the lonesome visitors.















Lay me down, Frog. In the valley of my shadow. In the alley, for the valley of my shadow of death. For the whole of my youth. Lay down, Frog. Rest.





















End Notes



The writing in italics is an epigraph to Cyrus Cassell's poem, Luna Verde, and is a variation on a line from the poem, Sleepwalking Ballad, by Federico Garcia Lorca.         


2This stanza is a variation on Dale Little's poem, Untitled Work Song. At the time of this project, Dale was serving time at the Bibb County Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama.     


3 Each word comes from a different line in Moses Wingate's poem, I Can Laugh. At the time of this project, Moses was serving time at Bibb County Correctional Facility in Brent, AL.


4 This song is inspired by Richard Sandlin's poem, Snicker Chases the Bee. At the time of this project, Richard was serving time at Bibb County Correctional Facility in Brent, AL.